The UK government has launched a campaign urging Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, to halt its plans to introduce automatic encryption on its messaging services. The campaign argues that implementing encryption without proper safety measures in place will allow child abusers to “hide in the dark.” The Home Office has released a video featuring a survivor of child abuse, who appeals directly to Zuckerberg, expressing concerns about the potential consequences of encryption.
The National Crime Agency warns that encrypting Messenger and Instagram messages could result in a significant decrease in abuse referrals to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) in the US. The UK-based agency estimates that 90% of these referrals occur outside the US. Home Secretary Suella Braverman has criticized Meta for not providing sufficient assurances regarding child safety during discussions about its encryption plans. She states that appropriate safeguards need to be developed alongside the implementation of end-to-end encryption.
The government and child safety campaigners are concerned that encryption will make it easier for abusers to groom children and share images of sexual abuse without detection. Meta argues that encryption is necessary to protect the privacy and security of its users. The company claims to have implemented safety measures and artificial intelligence systems to combat abuse while maintaining online security.
In addition to the government’s campaign, the Online Safety Bill, which includes provisions to combat child sexual abuse material, has completed its passage through parliament. Privacy campaigners and tech firms have expressed concerns that these provisions could compromise encryption and infringe on individuals’ privacy. The bill empowers the communications watchdog, Ofcom, to order messaging services to use “accredited technology” to detect and remove such content.
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